This simple image is a long (one second) exposure from the side of a ship. These are swells from hurricane Oscar that was over a thousand miles away.
The captain took us south to avoid the worst of it, but for about two days we saw some impressive swells, more massive than these. Even the largest cruise ship in the world will rock in these conditions. The swells hitting the side of the boat sounded exactly like waves crashing on the shore. It was relaxing, and for two nights we slept with the balcony door open so we could hear the soothing sounds.
To make a one-second exposure in daylight, I set the aperture to f40. That’s a tiny aperture, maybe the smallest I’ve ever used. An F-stop higher than 20 does not have a lot of practical uses, but long exposures are one. One second is long enough to make an in-camera motion blur effect without resorting to photoshop tricks.
My favorite thing about the trip across the Atlantic was the open sea. For over a week there was nothing but water and clouds.
When we booked the trip, I wasn’t sure what eight days at sea would be like. Now, I would do it again in a heartbeat. The entire time we did not see land, another boat, or a plane. It was an opportunity to detach from all land-based frames of reference.
On the final day before arriving at Port Canaveral, we began to see planes in the sky and seabirds. It was the first signs that home was not far off. It’s nice to back on the ground, but at the same time, it was nice to have a glimpse of a perspective where all the familiar references were not there.
This is the old city pier on Anna Maria Island. The “city” is Anna Maria, but if a few beach houses and seaside restaurants make a city, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
To further make my point, the speed limit is 25mph; I know, because I paid a nice fine for driving 35. But I digress. It’s been over a year since the restaurant on this pier was open. It got damaged in a hurricane, and now it and the dock are being reconstructed. But, as you already know, this is not a city where things move fast.
In the city of Anna Maria, there isn’t much to else to do but go to the beach, fish and eat at the restaurants. But then, that’s the attraction. A kind of place where you go to get away from everything else. There isn’t a lot of serious stuff going on, just the odd bit of monkey business; I should know.
I know I shouldn’t spend time wishing I was somewhere else. However, I do. Except when I’m here, then I don’t.
When I have a vacation coming up, I wish I was there already; but if I were, it would be over sooner, and I’d be back to the real world when I should be on vacation. The only other option is to make life one big vacation. Yeah, like that’s going to happen.
If life was just one big vacation, would I want to go to work? I think I know the answer to that. Sometimes I have too many thoughts for my own good. The best cure for that is a beach-view of the sunset on Friday. There’s plenty of time for the other stuff on Monday.
When I hear the word dune, I think of the desert, but these along the Florida beach are a different variety. Unlike the shifting sands of the Sahara, these are covered with plants and are meant to hold their shape in a storm. They are what keeps us from being washed away completely.
If you look carefully through the top of the dune, you’ll see orange tape marking a sea turtle nest. Scores of volunteers comb the beach for nests, erect barriers, and take careful notes over the incubation period. Once hatched, they’ll dash for the water so as not to be eaten by birds. Only a few survive to adulthood; it’s a rough start to what will hopefully become a long life in the sea.
Nothing is permanent, yet everything is trying to hold on. The dunes and turtles are both pitted against the forces of nature. Perhaps the tension in the environment is what produces the beauty on earth. It seems that elemental pressures are a creative force. Without them, we’d all be washed away and overrun with too many sea turtles. On second thought, you can never have too many sea turtles.
I’ve been avoiding it, but on Wednesday evening I went to Bradenton Beach to see the spectacle for myself. If you haven’t heard, Florida is in the middle of a massive red tide. So I drove to the beach, and as expected, was greeted with the smell of fish washed up on the shore. Maybe because of the breeze, it was not as bad as I feared. After a few minutes, I relaxed and let it fade into the background.
I came primarily to take pictures of the sunset because red tide or not, when the atmospheric conditions are right it’s still astounding to see. However, as I walked along the beach, something seemed out of place. I struggled to put my finger on it as I continued and then it hit me. It was too quiet; there were no birds. All of the gulls, pipers, and pelicans had either succumbed or escaped, and there was not a single one on the beach. The lack of avian sounds and activity left me with an eerie feeling. That was the moment it hit home.
I am heartbroken, of course. I rationalize to myself that we are moving through the worst it, but that we will make it to the other side. The conditions that allow the algae bloom will eventually cease, and the fish, birds and sea mammals will, in time, return. I’m glad I went, and now I know that I will go again because I think it’s important to witness it first hand, not just from TV. People are avoiding the shore, and the beach is empty in more ways than one. As for myself, being there to hear its silence is in some way, essential.
Sometimes I feel the urge to try and articulate the main idea behind my pursuit of photography. For whatever reason, this photo seems to evoke that in me.
Here is a picture that portrays an idyllic scene along the beach. Maybe we project ourselves into the scene. In doing so, we may walk on the shore with the vastness of the sea on one side. The expanse is an enigma. The longer we look, the less concrete our thoughts become. Our legs move as our minds begin to wander.
Rationally I like taking photos of idyllic scenes, yet, in doing so, I also attempt to capture something less rational. I aspire to capture scenery or people in the landscape that hints at something more elusive.
This idea is why I keep coming back again and again. Ironically, I try with images to evoke thoughts or feelings of something that cannot be seen by our eyes. To do that I may include space for the scene to breath, and then I hope that thoughts will fill the void. When that happens, my desire is satisfied, and perhaps yours is just beginning.
I mentioned the other day on the blog that the Anna Maria Island Pier sustained damaged in the last hurricane. They are now demolishing what’s left as the first step of reconstruction. However, I have a lot of photos of the old one, and this is one I took three years ago. I also posted a panorama of this view about a year ago.
There is another pier just up the shore from here. It’s called the Rod and Reel Pier, and it also has a restaurant on it. A while back, that restaurant burned, but like this pier, I have images of it before the fire. Maybe the rebuilt one is safer, but in my opinion, the old one was more photogenic. Nevertheless, it’s still one of my favorite places to hang out.
In another year this will be rebuilt as well. I hope the architects take the time to preserve something of the old look. But no matter, I’ll be there to make another image and document the new pier, which according to news accounts should last about one hundred years. That’s a lot of time and hurricanes to withstand. Possibly I’ll reincarnate and shoot the replacement in the year 2120. You never know.
Here’s a photo I took over three years ago when I still had my Nikon. Now and then I go back to old images and process them with new tools. What’s unique about this images is that the pier no longer exists, it’s replaced by a stronger one. With the tropical storms we get each year, the piers and docks take a beating and, as you can see, eventually need replacing.
In fact, that reminds me of the Anna Maria Island Pier. It was ruined in a hurricane last year, and it’s now demolished for new construction. It will be rebuilt, along with a restaurant in about a year. I have a ton of images of the old one, so maybe I’ll repost one this week.
Images are memory aids. Without the pictures, we would forget the things from the past. When finding this picture in the backlog, I forgot for a minute where I had taken it. I’m so used to the new pier that I almost forgot how the old one looked. Pictures are like vitamins for the memory or some such thing.
This image is an example of the kinds of things you’ll see just by showing up to a location and observing. It’s not staged, yet it has receding elements: a girl, a bird, and a sailboat, not to mention the evening sun. The objects are receding, and from a compositional perspective, that’s pretty cool. Let me explain.
There were other objects and people around, but I positioned the frame to simplify the image. Unconsciously our eyes are drawn from the close-up objects to those far away, and in that split-second traverse, each observer (you) creates a story. I refer to “story” a lot in my images, but what I mean is the musings of an observer (you). When you muse, you automatically make up a story. That makes me the story-teller, and now I’ve connected with you. It’s pretty simple really, and it’s the idea behind stories in photographs.
We can create stories in different ways; for me, it often involves simplifying a scene and engaging the viewer. But each person is different, and we could take a complicated scenario and do the same thing, there are no rules. My photos at the beach are simple, but I also like busy city streets with a lot of things to explore. (In fact, I’ll post one like that next week.) But I digress. When taking photos, you want to tell a story. No matter where you are, you can compose the shot in such a way that when I see it, I make up my own story.